Life without Google!!!

On the 27th of July this year, which was observed as Guru Purnima day – a day where we remember our gurus/teachers in life, a meme which was going viral on WhatsApp showed a student prostrating before “Google” and paying his respects on Guru Purnima day to the search engine! As much as it’s a joke to laugh about, one cannot miss the irony looking at the reality of the search engine’s clutch on our lives today!

Google today, is a gargantuan Eco system. But here, we are referring to its earliest avatar –the search engine.  For this generation, their first and probably only chosen resort for discovering answers to any question is “Google”! School is just for parents’ reassurance! Our generation which studied and survived without Google in those days seem so dated now! In conversations among our peers, this dialogue is often said and heard – “In our times there was no Google. We all worked so hard. And look at kids these days! They just Google and get all information what they want without moving their a**s!” That the lines are often pregnant with envy which is never missed by the kids is another matter!

Well, forget this generation. What will happen to “us”, the “Doordarshan” generation of the 70’s and 80’s if the search engine stops working one fine morning???

  • Where will we get those “thought for the day” messages for circulating every morning in the WhatsApp groups??
  • How do we take important decisions like whether to dry clothes inside or outside? Go back to the old fashioned way of searching the Newspaper for weather forecast! And use the thumb rule of drying clothes outside if IMD says heavy rain is in store for the day!
  • Travelling and reaching a new place means calling up and asking for proper directions and landmarks and religiously noting them in a piece of paper and not forgetting to put that in your pocket before leaving and leaving sufficiently early to be there on time and,… and,…
  • Did you just get used to the Uber or Ola App after repeated pestering by your kids? Then time to get back to the old ways of hailing the cab on the road and haggling about the faulty meter or the amount “above” the meter!
  • One may have to think many times before taking up the challenge of trying out some new exotic recipes at home! And have to go back to the time-tested way of calling the mother for any recipe! And have to start maintaining that cooking book!
  • And imagine what will happen to the parents when faced with school assignments and projects without Google!!! And get used to taunts like – “Dad, the answer you taught yesterday for the problem is totally wrong!!”
  • And as parents, forget about becoming heroes in the eyes of children by answering some weird, tough questions on general knowledge or some such thing by   surreptitiously checking on Google!
  • Tieing that saree the very traditional way for the puja is going to be nerve-wracking!
  • Where will you get the jokes for the all-important seminar the next day?
  • And where will one find answers to all those silly and not so silly “How to…” questions?
  • So and so forth

I am just listing the obvious.

It’s clear that not this just generation or the Gen Next, even the older ones today, cannot pass a single day without Google.

Google spent or is still spending tonnes of dollars on traditional media like TV for popularising the idea of “googling” with older generation as their main target audience! When you have the most popular online platform trying to spread awareness about itself through TV commercials, Billboards, Newspaper ads, irony just “googled” for the best way to commit suicide!!!

Look at these TVCs here! These are certainly endearing but I wonder if today is there a real need for anyone to advertise virtues of “Google”???  Well, probably this will fall under CSR for Google for helping the economy of the country with its huge ad spend!

Jokes apart, Google is participating in real CSR for example with projects like providing Free Wi-Fi at Railway stations. But the larger game plan must be to make people get used to the Google Ecosystem which is today omnipresent! From Search to Mails to Video sharing to Smart phone OS to Cloud sharing to Photo sharing to so many things! While there are options and semblance of competition in others, for internet search, competition is non-existent or is far off.

Any product with no competition is worrisome. We can see today how SEO techniques are being used by most to influence search results and increasingly are either not reliable or dis-honest! Time to have a challenger to Google!

Postscript: Did I say competition for Google search is non-existent? Well I take back. I am married. Don’t you remember this??? I just googled and found this 😀

Advertisements

15 years hence in “Google” of the changes in Sabarimala !!!

It is exactly 15 years since I last visited Sabarimala – a temple housed in the hills in the southern state of Kerala which is supposed to beGod’s own country.  Those days, if I had to provide information on this temple, I would have had to spend time and energy to write a few lines coherently and still may end up not providing the full or proper information. But today, times have changed. Without me prompting, one would just “Google” ‘Sabarimala’ and find for oneself all relevant and even irrelevant information he/ she needs. As “Google” celebrates its 15 year anniversary this week, I realized that 15 years is a long enough period to witness paradigm shifts. We have been fortunate to be a part of many disruptive technologies in our lives – “Google” being certainly one for changing our lives for the good.

As I embarked on the Sabarimala trip last week, I was keen to look out for the changes – good and otherwise that would have happened, for myself. For people who have been regulars it might have missed their attention and may not be so exciting but for me it clearly gave a “Before/After” picture which I thought I will share in this post. And my focus of this post is just on those interesting changes which I managed to capture.

The highway leading to Pamba the base camp from where you start trekking up to the temple is part of the Ghat section and is forest area. One could now see the highway “littered” with signs of “No plastic zone” in line with the increasing concerns around protecting the environment these days. But the irony was not lost on us as soon as we reached Pamba and alighted out of the car. It started raining and you guess what – “plastic” sheets were being hawked for 20 bucks as rain covers to protect you from the rain as you climb!!! In the “Plastic free zone” – plastic was freely made available!!!

You could see the effects of the other “disruptive technology” as soon as you land at Pamba now. At Pamba most of the public utility and services buildings like the post office, police station,.. are all now crowned with “Cell phone” towers which means that we cannot give the excuse of “no connectivity” for not attending to our business! Ofcourse if your operator was for example Airtel you can still get away!!! The once busy STD/ISD/PCO booths now witness in envy the mini stampedes in Mobile recharge shops as people scramble to get their SIM cards topped up.

At the Pamba base camp one cannot the miss now the ATMs of various banks solving the liquidity issues of the pilgrims.  And if you want to do last-minute changes in your travel plans or do some booking, Southern Railway has pitched in with a railway reservation counter.

The hilly steep terrain from Pamba to ‘Sannidhanam’ (Sanctum Sanctorum) which used to be just muddy/rocky path interspersed with logs of wood to provide grip has now been concretized. I am not sure if this is good or bad. Ofcourse it provides more grip while climbing up and coming down but during afternoons the concrete path heats up. Also the not so smooth but rough concrete surface provides for a nice acupressure treatment!!! It is now advised to climb with your slippers on.

Now concreted path

Now concreted path

The concrete surface also means – it is now possible for the vehicles to move up and down which was an unseen sight those days but a common sight now. The Mahindra tractor keeps whizzing past you up and down now carrying loads of material required at the top. But they are well advised to “HORN OK PLEASE”  🙂 🙂 Actually herds of donkeys were doing the material carrying routine those days.  You can also now see huge earth moving equipment at work paving the way for new roads, connectivity,..

Mahindra tractors - A Common sight

Mahindra tractors – A Common sight

Earthmovers @ work

Earthmovers @ work

On the way there are sheds which have come up which provide for places to rest and relax a while on the way. Again on the way one could see very novel ‘urinals’ (sorry no picture) which have been put up to channelize the ‘human leaks’. Not sure hygienically if this is a good idea as the stench in the vicinity was unbearable 😦  Those days pilgrims would just disappear in the forest area to relieve themselves and Nature would take care of the rest.

For many people an annual trip to Sabarimala is an opportunity to test their “cardiological well-being”. The steep climb up for a few kilometers does challenge the strongest of hearts. Therefore one is happy to see the mushrooming of health centres now at the base, on the way and at the top. So you now have a buffet to choose from – Ayurvedha hospital, Homeo dispensary, Cardiology centre and General clinic are all there in case of emergency. And as a sign of “globalization” – you can see warning signs on H1 N1 as well.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the Sannidhanam on top there are ofcourse many new crowd regulating measures at work but still I’m not sure if these measures really work during the peak season time when millions throng the place. You can only now climb up the “Holy 18 steps” and not allowed to use for climbing down.

The Holy 18 Steps

The Holy 18 Steps

The steps are also gold plated now (so is the temple Vimana – Courtesy one Mallya I’m told 🙂 ) and you are not allowed to break coconuts on the steps now.

With mobile phone connectivity till up the top, don’t be surprised to see mobile/ TAB toting pilgrims “checking in” and “checking out” of “Pamba / Sannidhanam’,… and updating status real-time on FB or tweeting about the weather. Also it has made the whole travel experience more convenient. So on your return with a few calls, you are spared of the trouble and time of locating your vehicle and the driver which used to be a nightmare before.

As they say, “the more things change the more they stay the same”.  Ergo there were so many things which remained same in 15 years – some thankfully so and some not so. The ones which remain the same thankfully for example the thick forest cover, very good roads in such an intimidating terrain,.. need mention. The sight of very poor and diseased people seeking alms along the way up the hills is something which you saw those days and you don’t want to see today.  Obviously inclusive growth has been elusive in our country. 15 years is a long enough period for countries to lift people out of poverty as we saw in the case of China. But for our country, our administrators are still “Googling” for the magic formula and unfortunately we have not found one yet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Likeaholics” Not Anonymous!!!

Oxford Dictionary by 2015 or earlier would have included another word to its vocabulary – “LIKEAHOLIC” and it would mean – A person who is addicted to “Social Media”.  A human being would be declared a “LIKEAHOLIC if he exhibits one or more of the following symptoms: ( I’ve chosen the male gender just for convenience. These attributes apply to both genders )

  • Except for the few hours of sleep, he is in one of the social media sites
  • Considers fashionable to communicate to his immediate family members through Facebook(FB)
  • On waking up in the morning instead of brushing his teeth, reaches out to his smart phone to check updates on FB/Twitter
  • Updates status on FB as if it was a diary. “Standing”,” Sitting”, “Shitting”,..
  • Enjoys traffic Jams while travelling so that he gets that time to check updates on FB/Twitter,..
  • Gets into serious withdrawal syndrome on long haul flights and the 1st thing he does when the plane lands is – you know what!
  • He is chatting on FB thro Whatsapp while tweeting to his LinkedIn contacts
  • And so on

That social media has changed the way we communicate is a no brainer.  As somebody said – “These days News no longer breaks, it tweets”!!!

In the pre-social media era, ‘like’ was just a simple word expressed when you want to appreciate something. These days in the FB era, the word “Like” has attained much larger overtones!!!

Like in the society, one can see different people types on social media like FB/Twitter,.. as well. There are the

  • Watchers: People who are members and regular visitors. But they don’t post. Just watch what’s happening.
  • Likers: They don’t post either. But make it a point to “Like” whatever they see.
  • Braggers: Updates are all about Me/Mine/Myself.  They don’t care a damn of what others are doing
  • Check-ers: Don’t do anything but keep “Checking in and out”. Idea is just to tell people that they are roaming
  • Show-ers: Uses FB/Twitter/LinkedIn to show off his talents – writing/sketching/singing/acting/photography,…
  • Sharers: Their posts are only “shares”.
  • Copiers : Posts are by and large of the “Copy/Paste” variety
  • Promoters: Posts are only about their products/company/programs/religion,…
  • App-ers: Who play around in the App center and keep ‘farming’/’harvesting’ or providing ‘lunch idea’,…

And there are people (like yours faithfully) who are a combination of some or many of the above!

By the way none of the above types is a problem – it’s the way people are.

The point is – which type are you comes second. The 1st issue is ‘are you there’? These days you are considered technologically challenged if you are not on the popular social media. “You are not on FB????”  – There you go – your market cap is down a few million dollars!!! Then the next question – “You are not ‘active‘ on FB ???” Another few million dollars gets scooped off.  (Fortunately I didn’t stretch that logic further and go for subscribing to the Facebook IPO.  For real, by now my market cap would have taken a posting oops pasting had I invested! Somehow post the IPO, the market is not hitting the  “Like” button on the FB share so much!)

Obsession of being ‘current’ on social media can be a time-consuming affair. Thank God for small mercies – “MySpace” did not get too much ‘space’ in this part of the globe and Orkut was rendered ‘kaput’ by Facebook. I rued the day Google got active in the social media by adding Google + to its repertoire.  Rued because then you have another site to ‘hangout’ and update your status.  Thankfully Google+ is turning out to be a dud!  Also must thank technology for the “linking” option. You tweet your status and the same gets updated in FB/LinkedIn,.. Or vice versa.

There’s a voyeuristic tendency in all of us and social media like FB has played to that tendency.  We are all interested in knowing what others are up to. And in that sense it has just replaced the gossip sessions of the yesteryear. Physical gossip has become Virtual – that’s all.

Having said that, I relish being a part of this circus!  Personally for me, since Sep 2008 when I first hopped on to the social media bandwagon like FB, Twitter,.. it has been a discovery.

  • Like connecting with my primary / secondary school mates with whom I had lost contacts since I left Class 12.
  • Re-establishing contact and memories with my engineering and B School mates.
  • Hi touch and exchanging notes with my erstwhile colleagues
  • Seeing the big smile on my mom’s face when her in-house vegetation pictures get a few likes from her granddaughters.
  • Getting an opportunity to show my appreciation to others
  • Being a great stress buster of sorts – going thro some ‘LOL’ posts and adding your 2 cents, taking potshots at celebrities, politicians the way you feel,..
  • And lastly has given me a forum for creative expression.  Today I’m attempting to do things which I really “Liked” and that happened because of the “like” button my friends hit liberally when I posted something interesting for which I’m ever thankful!

In that sense I’ve become a “Likeaholic” but I am not regretting yet!  As they say, for everything there’s limit beyond which it becomes overkill.  I hope this “likeaholism” stays the course.

And don’t forget to hit the “like” if you like this post!!!